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'The Abrams Report' for March 24

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Troy Roberts, Clint Van Zandt, Susan Filan, Michelle Suskauer, Pam

Killingsworth, Jennifer Johnson, Dawn Izgarjan, Carolyn Beck, Brian Wice

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Aruba's deputy police chief now says he thinks Natalee Holloway was not murdered, but died from alcohol or drugs and was buried somewhere on the island.  He points to a key new witness in the case. 

The program about justice starts now. 

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, big news out of Aruba.  The island's deputy chief of police is now saying he believes Natalee Holloway likely died from drinking and possibly taking drugs, not murdered.  That according to Deputy Police Chief Gerald Dompig.  He says there are witnesses who say Natalee had drugs in her possession and was drinking heavily the day she disappeared.  In an interview with CBS News' “48 Hours”, Deputy Chief Dompig also said a new witness emerged with information about a specific burial location.  Investigators will be heading out to do a new search in the coming weeks.

Joining me now is the CBS “48 Hours” correspondent who interviewed the deputy, Troy Roberts.  Troy, thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  I'm good.  So what was the—what is the reasoning that Dompig is offering for this new theory?

ROBERTS:  Well, he's been working on this for awhile.  As everyone knows, it's no secret that Natalee Holloway was drinking on the night that she disappeared, but new people have come forward.  Eyewitnesses, who have said that she was drinking excessively. 

What he said was that there was almost lethal amounts of alcohol and more eyewitnesses have come forward to say that she was seen in possession of drugs.  He stressed that no one has said that they saw her using drugs, but that she was in possession of drugs and he would not tell me the kind of drugs that they saw her with. 

ABRAMS:  But illegal—let's be clear.  Dompig is suggesting illegal drugs, right? 

ROBERTS:  Illegal drugs, yes, but again he wouldn't identify the drugs.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play a piece of sound from your interview with Dompig, talking about where her body may be. 



ROBERTS:  Do you believe Natalee Holloway's body is recoverable?


ROBERTS:  You do?  Do you believe Natalee Holloway's body is somewhere on this island?

DOMPIG:  I do. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  So what is his theory?  I mean she passes out from drinking and doing drugs, and then her body is buried somewhere? 

ROBERTS:  He says that her body went in to shock, she overdosed, and that the suspects disposed of the body illegally.  That they buried the body in haste, it was buried inadequately and then later moved to another location.  So basically what he's saying is that she died, they buried her, it was exhumed and then moved to another location and that's where they're going to be focusing their search. 

ABRAMS:  And again, Troy, he's not saying what he's basing this on.  Meaning, he says he's got an eyewitness with regard to where the body may have been buried, but he's not saying anything about why he believes that that is how she died, and that these young men were then involved in burying the body? 

ROBERTS:  He wouldn't share all of his information with me for obvious reasons, but he has been working with the Dutch Forensic Center, and also the FBI in building this theory.  This is not something he's just pulling out the top of his—out of his head.  He actually has a strong case, he says, that could eventually solve this case. 

He believes that this case will be solvable.  He believes that this body is—it can be recovered, that the body is still on the island, and this theory is driving this next search, which will be happening in April.

ABRAMS:  Here's again one more piece of sound from Dompig talking to you about where the investigation stands. 


ROBERTS:  How would you characterize the state of this investigation right now?

DOMPIG:  I would say critical last phase. 

ROBERTS:  Critical last phase. 


ROBERTS:  Do you believe this case will be solved? 

DOMPIG:  Yes, I do. 


ABRAMS:  Now, you know, Troy, we hear this in cases all the time where the lead investigator or the prosecutor says we're going to crack this case, we're going to solve this case, but it sounds to me from your interview like Dompig is saying we're close to going to the next step here. 

ROBERTS:  Well, I think he is shaking the tree a little bit here.  He believes that there are more people involved, that the main suspects were working with accomplices, that there are other people that may come forward with information that can bring this home.  So I think that's part of his agenda.  This is one of the reasons why he went public.  But he believes this case is going to be solved, Dan, very soon. 

ABRAMS:  Does he seem like a competent guy to you?  I mean he's been on this program a number of times on the phone, so I've never gotten to sit with him face-to-face.  Does he seem like a competent guy to you? 

ROBERTS:  I found him to be competent and thoughtful and sincere.  He's resolved to solve this case.  Obviously, his reputation has been bruised because this case has gone unsolved for so long, and I think he wants to get it off of his desk. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Troy Roberts, big get, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Be sure to catch Troy's interview with Deputy Chief Dompig tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS. 

ROBERTS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan, criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer, and MSNBC analyst and former FBI investigator Clint Van Zandt join us.  Clint, I want to start with you because...


ABRAMS:  ... we're at the investigative stage here. 


ABRAMS:  How does Dompig know this stuff? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well you know, Dan, this is a theory.  Now number one, you know you followed this case from day one.  This idea of the dunes up by the lighthouse, this has existed since the day she disappeared.  As late as January this information came up that her body had been buried and perhaps reburied.  What I want to know is it's now March heading into April, if he has this information, if he's had it since January, instead of putting all the money into the F-16's doing flyovers, why don't we rent a couple of backhoes, get 20 guys with rakes and go out there and find out if she's there or not.

ABRAMS:  And here's Deputy Chief Dompig on this program in October, and again, we were asking him about where things stood, and what his theory was and here's what he said. 


DOMPIG:  We want to have more answers, we want to find more answers, and don't forget that we have things—a variety of possibilities from rape, murder.  We also have some kind of accident that happened, and people might feel that they are responsible for it. 


ABRAMS:  Oh, Susan Filan, that seems to be exactly what Chief Deputy Dompig is saying now. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:   You know, Dan, nobody knows what happened.  We're all speculating, but something about that interview just doesn't hit me right.  And I'm not exactly sure what it is, but it seems pretty self-serving.  It's almost like Aruba's reputation has been bruised, my reputation has been bruised.  Wouldn't it be great if I could just show you all this was an accident, everybody come back to Aruba, it's a safe place and as police, we didn't mess up. 

I just wonder about him coming forward now saying I think I know where the body is, but I'm going to wait until April and you'll see it's an accident.  Well...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean I have to tell you...

FILAN:  ... if they do recover her body forensically...


FILAN:  ... how are they going to show it's not murder now? 

ABRAMS:  And that is trouble.  I mean the idea, Michelle, look, this is—

Aruba's tourism is depending on the outcome of this case.  Let's be clear. 

This is no minor case in Aruba, all right?  What is he waiting...


ABRAMS:  ... for then to wait until April? 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well I—you know, we're putting him on our timetable, and I also think that's a little unfair.  I mean this is a government...


SUSKAUER:  ... who's been working on this case...

ABRAMS:  You're sort of giving it like the hey man, chill out defense?

SUSKAUER:  No.  No.  But you know, Dan, I still don't think that what he's doing now may necessarily prove any cases against any of the suspects, but what I'm saying is, this is a government who—you know we've obviously been very, very critical of from the beginning and I think...

ABRAMS:  I haven't been that critical.  I have to tell you...


ABRAMS:  ... I haven't been that critical of them. 


SUSKAUER:  But I think a lot of people have, and I think that there were a lot of goof-ups...

ABRAMS:  There were.

SUSKAUER:  ... in the beginning...

ABRAMS:  There were.  Look, no, I'm just saying...


ABRAMS:  ... I haven't been critical of the government.  There's no question the authorities made mistakes...

SUSKAUER:  I know...

ABRAMS:  ... at the beginning of this investigation, no question. 

SUSKAUER:  But this is—but this—but he's working on a lot of different theories, so why are we—you know if he's been working on it and he obviously didn't have that information, maybe until now or maybe six weeks ago, we're saying well why didn't he go ahead and just put it out there...

ABRAMS:  Oh come on...

SUSKAUER:  ... beforehand to satisfy the American media? 

ABRAMS:  Clint—all right look—yes, Clint, look, I mean again...


ABRAMS:  ... you know—look, you've been down there. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, I have.

ABRAMS:  This is—this case is crucial to the country of Aruba...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure it is.

ABRAMS:  ... and when you look—and this is why I wanted this sound pulled from Dompig on our show back in October. 


ABRAMS:  We also have the possibility that some kind of accident happened and people might feel they are responsible for it.  That sounds like Dompig was suggesting, even back in October, that maybe there was an O.D., maybe then...


ABRAMS:  ... they went and found a burial place and put the body there.  But you know, it doesn't seem to me to be particularly helpful that he's out there saying, we have witnesses that say they saw Natalee with drugs, and yet, we're not going to go find the place where we believe that the body may be buried quite yet. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well you know what my best case scenario is Dan, that were I doing the interview of those three young men day one, I would have come up with an idea of it's not your fault, young men, she was drinking, she may have done drugs, you took her out, she died, you panicked, you buried her because you didn't know what to do.  It wasn't your fault.  Come clean.

Let's deal with this now.  And if this is some version of that to get them to tell us where she is, fine.  If this is a new version, like we saw this last month and you were so strong on blaming Imette St. Guillen because she died at the hands of someone else, it's a terrible thing to do to try to resurrect the island based upon this girl's bones. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  And we—this is Dompig again.  This is from the quote from CBS.  We feel strongly that she probably went into shock or something happened to her system with all the alcohol.  Maybe on top of that other drugs, which either she took or they gave her and that she just collapsed.  It goes on to say we have statements claiming that she had drugs.  We do not have proof that Natalee used drugs, but that witnesses saw her with drugs in her possession.  Boy...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes and I had people in Aruba, Dan, tell me that probably Joran van der Sloot just snuck her off the island because she fought with her mother so much.  So you know there's a lot of theories down there. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but again, this is the deputy chief of police. 


ABRAMS:  Susan, go ahead. 

FILAN:  Well, this is what bothers me.  OK, it's almost like he's now on the defense team of Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers...

ABRAMS:  No, but not really, because it sounds like what he's going to say, and Susan, correct me if I'm wrong, it sounds to me from what I'm hearing, is that he's suggesting maybe Natalee died of a drug overdose, maybe there was some sort of sexual assault and then maybe the boys then went and put her body somewhere because they freaked out. 

FILAN:  OK.  Here's what's wrong with that, Dan.  OK, if she had so many drugs in her system, and we know that at different times these boys have said that they had sex with her, she didn't have the capacity to consent, so that's rape, so right there they're guilty of rape.  If they had sex with her, she didn't have the capacity to consent, she was so drunk.

Maybe what happened is she got a mouth full of sand and choked and they disposed of her body.  So it may be some combination...


FILAN:  ... they didn't intend to kill her.  It was an accident.  But I can't imagine for a minute a girl that drunk, if she was, and on drugs, if she was, giving consent to these boys.  And if you listen to her mom, who knows this girl better than anybody, her mom is going to tell you Natalee was an “A” student, she wasn't the type of girl to do this.  Now maybe...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but come on...

FILAN:  ... she went party wild...

ABRAMS:  I mean look...


ABRAMS:  ... I love her mom, Susan...


ABRAMS:  ... but the notion that somehow her mom is going to know whether she drinks or—I mean look, I'm like you, I'm a little—I'm very skeptical of this, but the notion that somehow her mom says she didn't drink or do drugs and therefore the issue is done, you know that doesn't end the inquiry. 


FILAN:  But that wasn't what I was going to say, Dan.  That sort of misstates my position. 

ABRAMS:  What were you saying?

FILAN:  What I'm saying is—I'm saying that her mom knows her better than anybody.  Her mom is going to tell us what kind of girl she is.  Not to say that she didn't maybe go party wild in Aruba for the first time in her life, but if she wasn't a drinker back home and she went a little crazy on Aruba...

ABRAMS:  That's not misstating. 


ABRAMS:  You're just saying her mom would know if she's a drinker...


ABRAMS:  I'm saying you don't know if her mom would know if she's a drinker.  But again, I don't want to get into this...


ABRAMS:  I don't want to get into looking into whether Natalee was a drinker or not a drinker.  The bottom line is Natalee was the victim here and I want to know what happened to her.  Go ahead, Michelle.

SUSKAUER:  No, I was saying that the chief obviously is getting this information from somewhere, whether it's interviews with her friends, the other teens that maybe he didn't have access to from the very beginning, so there's information here that he's using, so maybe that's why it's coming out now. 

ABRAMS:  I don't know.

SUSKAUER:  But you know, I disagree with Susan about the fact that her mother knows exactly what she's going to do...


SUSKAUER:  ... and what she's capable of doing on the island.

ABRAMS:  I know.  I want to move on from that—I don't want to start having a debate about what Natalee Holloway was or wasn't.  I want to figure out what happened to her.  And I'm not convinced that we have any—

I mean did you hear Troy's report, Clint, he's saying that...


ABRAMS:  ... Dompig is suggesting that she might have been drinking a lethal amount of alcohol.  I got to tell you, I don't know who these witnesses are who can determine what a lethal amount of alcohol is.

VAN ZANDT:  And where have they been for the last 10 months.  I mean the students that were there with her were interviewed.  They said yes, she was drinking.  Everybody admits that, but nobody else died.  Not one other girl on that trip died who might have been drinking the same amount she did, so there's—chances are somebody put something in her drink.  Rohypnol, you know, a date rape drug and took her away from there, but let's not start blaming her...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

VAN ZANDT:  ... because she was knocking down a couple of drinks.

ABRAMS:  Yes, he's got to be real careful.

SUSKAUER:  I don't think he's blaming her. 

ABRAMS:  Well no, but again, look, once you start talking about the victim having drugs in her possession, you'd better have really good evidence, “A”, that that's the case, and “B”, that it's relevant to this case. 


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Michelle, go ahead.  What did you say?

SUSKAUER:  I was saying I don't—I just think that's spin.  I don't agree with your spin here.  I don't think that he's putting that blame on Natalee.  I think he's using that information that he's...

ABRAMS:  It's just better...



ABRAMS:  You can't just throw stuff like that out there.  It better be true, “A”, and number two, it better be relevant.  I'm sorry. 


ABRAMS:  But to just throw stuff like that out there in connection with this case, you've got to be careful.  I got to wrap it up. 


ABRAMS:  Susan, Clint, Michelle, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes...


SUSKAUER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a prominent preacher found dead in his home, his family missing, now his wife confessed to the murder.  Turns out she took the kids and ran, but why?  Talk to someone who knows the family well.  It's up next.


ABRAMS:  The mother of these three girls is now charged with murdering her husband, a church minister and community leader in a small Tennessee town.  Thirty-two-year-old Mary Winkler sits in an Alabama jail waiting to be extradited back to Tennessee, where she faces a charge of first-degree murder.  Police say Winkler shot her husband before taking her three girls, 8-year-old Patricia, 6-year-old Mary Alice and 1-year-old Breanna from Selmer, Tennessee hundreds of miles away to Orange Beach, Alabama presumably to get away from the area where she had committed this crime.

Matthew Winkler's body was found in his bedroom Wednesday night by some of his parishioners after an Amber Alert was issued.  The girls were picked up with their mother last night in Alabama.  Authorities say Mary Winkler confessed to killing her husband. 

Joining me now is Jennifer Johnson of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.  Agents there interviewed Mary Winkler today and Pam Killingsworth is a friend of the Winklers and a member of their church.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

Before I get to the investigation, Ms. Killingsworth, let me start with you.  I mean I would assume that the news of this came as an enormous shock to you.


ABRAMS:  How well did you know her? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  Mary brought the kids to school every day and every afternoon.  Also, the two older girls had music lessons with me, so I saw her every week, two different times a week, and nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary.

ABRAMS:  They seemed to have a good relationship, husband and wife? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  Yes, they did.  She was always beside him at church, all the group meetings that we had, youth devotionals, she was always there. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ms. Johnson, she has apparently confessed to your agents, true? 

JENNIFER JOHNSON, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:  Yes.  This is true.  Alabama Bureau of Investigation actually interviewed her first last night.  We had agents en route as soon as we knew where she was.  They interviewed her and she did confess to this. 

ABRAMS:  Did she say why she did it?

JOHNSON:  You know I can't get into the details of the conversation, but you know all of that will come out in court.  But you know it's safe to say that she did confess. 

ABRAMS:  Can you confirm that he was shot in the back?

JOHNSON:  I can confirm that he was shot.  I don't want to get in to the number of times and that kind of thing.  But he was found in a back bedroom shot to death at 9:20 on Wednesday night. 

ABRAMS:  And the confession, I mean is clear, unambiguous, no uncertainty. 

JOHNSON:  No, she's been very cooperative.  As soon as her van was spotted there on the side of the road, she was very forthcoming with authorities, and has made no attempt to hide what's happened. 

ABRAMS:  What happens to her children now? 

JOHNSON:  Well, it's my understanding, I know that last night the Department of Children Services in Alabama actually helped out, took custody, and we're handling that over night and it's now my understanding that his father is trying to—and may already have them back in his home at this hour. 

ABRAMS:  Is there anything to indicate that the daughters may have seen what happened?

JOHNSON:  You know, I wouldn't want to get into a lot of those details.  These kids have been through a lot and I would just really hate to air any of that on television for obvious reasons.

ABRAMS:  Tell me about the tracking—of tracking her down.  How was she tracked to Alabama?

JOHNSON:  We had a number of different things going at one time.  We had the criminal investigation certainly and then we had the Amber Alert that was issued at 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning and between the be on the lookouts that—we sent a nationwide BOLO out and between that, the Amber Alerts, we were able to narrow it down to the southeast, some different areas that we thought she may be traveling in, through other law enforcement techniques, which I really can't get into.  We were able to narrow it down to the panhandle, we notified authorities there that we believe she was in that area and they simply drove by her van and saw it.

ABRAMS:  Ms. Killingsworth look, you were saying that before this happened, you had no idea that there were any problems.  Since it has happened, since the arrest, have people in the community been talking about any possible problems between husband and wife? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  No one that I've talked to has—had noticed anything different.  They still seemed like everything was a normal, happy family.

ABRAMS:  Tell me about him. 

KILLINGSWORTH:  Matthew was a wonderful person, very charismatic, excellent speaker.  Just very much of a people person.  He was definitely the leader in the family.

ABRAMS:  And she had recently gone back to school, is that right?

KILLINGSWORTH:  She was—had gone back this semester to start working on her teaching degree. 

ABRAMS:  Do you know anything more about that? 

KILLINGSWORTH:  She just—I know when they got married she dropped out of college and she wanted to go back and finish up a teaching degree so that she could become a teacher and work with children.

ABRAMS:  Do you know how they met? 


ABRAMS:  Do you know how they met?

KILLINGSWORTH:  All I know is they met at college.  Both of them were in school at Freed Hardeman and started dating and that's how they met. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jennifer Johnson, Pam Killingsworth, thank you very much for coming on the program. 

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

KILLINGSWORTH:  You're welcome. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, breaking news in connection with the Afghan man, possibly facing death for converting to Christianity. 

And in Texas, a big effort underway to stop drunk driving by arresting people who appear to be drunk at bars, at bars, before they even head to their cars, even if they could walk home. 

Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in New Mexico. 

Authorities are searching for James Eskeets, 55, five-six, 160, was convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor.  Has not registered with the state.  If you've got any information where he is, please contact New Mexico Department of Public Safety, 505-827-9297.  Be right back.



ABRAMS:  Now to a story about how low one father allegedly went to save himself from prison.  Byron Perkins, convicted drug dealer and armed bank robber, earlier this year he was in jail in Kentucky awaiting sentencing for drug dealing, asked the judge for a provisional release because his 16-year-old son, Destin, was dying and needed a kidney transplant.  The judge granted the request and Perkins passed the initial donor test. 

Then when he was let out for his final round of tests he disappeared.  Police say instead of heading to the hospital, Perkins picked up his girlfriend, Lea Ann Howard, who is also facing robbery and firearms charges, and hit the road.  U.S. marshals say the two were sighted in Mexico and are likely traveling around as hitchhikers. 

Joining me now is Dawn Izgarjan—sorry—Izgarjan with the U.S.  Marshals.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  I know you were in court when Perkins asked to be released.  Explain to us what happened here.  So the judge says you can go, be tested to see if you're a match for your son's kidney and what, the next thing you know, he doesn't show up at the hospital?

DAWN IZGARJAN, U.S. MARSHAL:  Well, there were several conditions that were placed upon him.  And that was one of them that he was to attend these medical screening tests.

ABRAMS:  And were you surprised that the judge released him? 

IZGARJAN:  No.  People are released every day on bond in state and federal court.

ABRAMS:  So what happened here?  I mean so—was this—was there just not enough watch—not enough of a mechanism watching him?

IZGARJAN:  Well, when you're placed on bond, it's up to you to follow the conditions placed upon you.  So we don't watch people that are on bond. 

ABRAMS:  Would he have been released on bond were it not for the situation with his son?

IZGARJAN:  I don't know.

ABRAMS:  Is his son now in dire condition?  I mean is his son dying?

IZGARJAN:  The reports I have is that if he does not receive a kidney, yes.  That's what I've heard from the doctors being interviewed. 

ABRAMS:  Were you in court when he personally pled with the judge to let him see his son, to let him...

IZGARJAN:  I was in—yes—I'm sorry.  I was in court for one of the court hearings.  He had several and I was in court for one of them when he made his plea to the judge. 

ABRAMS:  How convincing was he? 

IZGARJAN:  He was very convincing.  He got out on bond.

ABRAMS:  But tell me in terms of your personal analysis of it.

IZGARJAN:  He was crying before the judge.  And he convinced everyone essentially that he was going to return.  That he just wanted to do this.  He wanted to do the right thing for his son. 

ABRAMS:  Now, we were saying that the—he and his girlfriend have apparently been spotted in Mexico.  Upon what is that based?

IZGARJAN:  There were two—I'm sorry, there was a couple from another state who vacationed with them, they were in the same area at the same time, and they called us when they saw them profiled on TV. 

ABRAMS:  Do you want to tell us where in Mexico they were spotted? 

IZGARJAN:  Oh, I knew you were going to ask me that.

ABRAMS:  You don't have to.  I mean only if it's helpful to the investigation. 

IZGARJAN:  Well, it is.  It's a fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta.  It's Boca State Tomlinson (ph) I think.

ABRAMS:  Sort of like trying to pronounce your last name (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


IZGARJAN:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  What should people be looking for?  I mean we're putting up some information about him, but in terms of finding him, what tips can you give people? 

IZGARJAN:  They don't have very much money, if any.  What they are doing is they are relying on the generosity of people in Mexico.  Just watch for Lea Ann.  She's got very long hair.  She wears hiking boots, known to wear hiking boots.  Perkins dresses very neatly.  He has numerous tattoos on his arms.  I think he has a chain around his right thigh.  He's a chain smoker, drinks beer, he has a scar on his forehead. 

ABRAMS:  Here's what the boy's mother had to say about this. 


ANGELA HAMMOND, BYRON PERKINS' EX-WIFE:  How can you do this to him and to me?  Putting us through this.  Please come home and turn yourself in. 


ABRAMS:  I understand there have been some people who have offered to donate kidneys since hearing about this story, right?

IZGARJAN:  There have been several offers that have come in.  It's overwhelming.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Dawn Izgarjan, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  If you've got any information on the whereabouts of Byron Perkins or Lea Ann Howard, please call the U.S. Marshals, 800-336-0102. 

I got breaking news in the case of Abdul Rahman.  A deal may be in the works to save the Afghan man facing trial and possibly the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.  In Afghanistan today, leading Muslim clerics were still calling for Rahman's death.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  It is the law of the Islamic world, it's the law of all constitutions in Islamic countries.  It's clear that the man who converts, he must be killed.  An apostate must be killed and there is no doubt about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  It's an internal problem that a Muslim has converted or retreated from his religion.  He has also turned against humanity by doing this, so this guy must be executed. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us from the State Department with the latest on the story.  Andrea, does it seem that they made up some sort of deal?

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well there is no deal yet, but there are certainly signals coming from diplomatic circles that the Afghanistan government realizes they've got to come out with a declaration of human rights.  They've got to release this man.  It has been told to them in no uncertain terms by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

She is calling this an evolving democracy, but clearly—especially the Republican base is telling the White House you cannot send American soldiers to war in Afghanistan for democratic principles and then tell the American people that they're going to execute someone because he has converted to becoming a Christian.  Now the facts are that the constitution that we helped create in Afghanistan is a mixed document, it was a compromise, and it says that it embraces the principles of democracy, religious freedom, freedom of speech, but at the same time it enshrines Islamic law and that is the conflict.

ABRAMS:  So knowing that there is this big problem and knowing that the administration is making it quite clear that they need this resolved, what can they do?  I mean when you've got these clerics out there and some of them viewed apparently as somewhat moderate.  I mean some of these are clerics who were persecuted by the Taliban...

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  ... back in the day, so what can the administration do when you're dealing with the—quote—“so-called moderates?” 

MITCHELL:  Well, here you've got President Karzai, we saw him in 2002 at the State of the Union in Laura Bush's box, three weeks ago the president was in Kabul despite threats went, insisted on going and showing the flag in Afghanistan.  Billions of dollars are at stake now in emergency supplemental, the floor—well was on the floor of the House now heading to the Senate. 

So Hamid Karzai is really created by the U.S. government.  We are still on the ground there.  We have enormous leverage, but he is between a rock and a hard place, because he is being pressured by his hard right, by the Islamic authorities, by his judiciary.  He's going to have to come up with a diplomatic solution and he's been told he has to do it in the next few days.  Condi Rice does not want to go to the Hill at a hearing next week already scheduled and have to face angry Republicans. 

ABRAMS:  And this is basically going to be the he's insane defense and they'll let...


ABRAMS:  ... him go and say oh you know...

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  ... he wasn't mentally fit? 

MITCHELL:  That seems to be the compromise but I have to tell you the State Department is telling the Afghans that is not good enough. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

MITCHELL:  Do not declare that this man is not mentally capable because he's declaring himself a Christian.  That is deeply offensive to people who value religious freedom. 

ABRAMS:  And will he—I guess the ultimate question is does Karzai have that kind of authority over the people who are conducting this trial?

MITCHELL:  Well, that is a very good question, because as you know, he is virtually the mayor of Kabul, not really the president of that country.  The rest of the country is being held together that—it is held together by various militias and by U.S. forces.  So whether or not he can pull this off and get Abdul Rahman safely out of the country and in exile to Germany remains to be seen.  That's going to be the drama this weekend.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Andrea Mitchell, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.  Good to see you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, it's Friday night.  You might be thinking about going out for a little bit of drinking.  But if you're in Texas, be careful.  If you're drunk and you're somewhere public, the police may have arrest you.  They call it a crack down.  Others are calling it crack pot.  No, I said ridiculous but I thought that was funny. 

Plus, slugger Barry Bonds going to court upset about a new book claiming he used steroids.  I say it's time for Barry to quit playing games about this steroid stuff.  It's my “Closing Argument”.

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, police in Texas cracking down on drunk driving, trying a new tactic, arresting drunk people in bars, in bars, even if they weren't going anywhere near a car.  Coming up.


SGT. CHRIS HAMILTON, TEXAS ALCOHOL BEVERAGE COMMISSION:  We want everyone to be responsible.  We want the people going out having a few drinks to be responsible drinkers. 


ABRAMS:  Don't mess with Texas.  You want to go out and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tie one on in the Lone Star state, you'd better watch out for the long arm of the law.  Past six months, agents from the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission have arrested more than 2,200 people for public intoxication, for being too drink inside bars.  It's called “Operation Last Call”.  The stated goal—to reduce DWI's in the state. 

Here's how it works.  Two undercover agents apparently hang out in bars waiting to nail patrons who've had one too many.  One of the agents cites someone for public intoxication, the other interviews witnesses and whoever is serving. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am not in danger of myself or anybody else because I'm going upstairs and going to bed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well by your very condition you're a danger to yourself and everybody else. 


ABRAMS:  I'm not really sure how that applies.  But the agents can take you in and the fine for this citation can be as high as $500.  Carolyn Beck is a public information officer with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission.  Brian Wice is a criminal defense attorney.  He was also an associate municipal court judge who dealt with a lot of these kinds of cases.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.

All right, so Carolyn, I've been watching you take a lot of heat on a lot of different programs about this and as a result, I thought to myself are we really going to do more bashing of this, but you know I got to tell you, I join in the chorus on this one.  It seems like it's a little bit of a morality police. 

CAROLYN BECK, TEXAS ALCOHOL AND BEVERAGE COMMISSION:  I don't think so at all.  I think the morality police would be telling you need to stop drinking alcohol and go to church.  What we're telling people is they need to consume alcohol responsibly, and not get so drunk that they may endanger themselves or others and if they feel that it's necessary to drink that much, they need to do it at home. 

ABRAMS:  Is there going to be an obesity police going out too, making sure people don't eat too much so they don't harm themselves.

BECK:  Not coming from the Alcohol Beverage Commission.

ABRAMS:  No...

BECK:  No.


BECK:  That will be somebody else.

ABRAMS:  That would be a different—but you understand my point, right?  I mean that once we start going out there and basically telling people, you know, you might harm yourself, even though there are a lot of people—apparently you guys went to one hotel bar where there are people who were staying in the hotel and all they did was walk up the stairs. 

BECK:  Well that's what she says that she was planning to do, but we've had deaths come from people who were—or one specifically my general counsel was telling me about just a half an hour ago—we had someone who was in a hotel bar, staying in a hotel and decided to get in his car and go somewhere else and killed somebody. 

ABRAMS:  But that's a crime.  Once you get in the car and you start driving, that's...

BECK:  In Texas it's a crime before you get in the car. 


ABRAMS:  You know what...

BECK:  ... you're intoxicated to the extent that you may be a danger to yourself or others.  In Texas that's a crime.

ABRAMS:  But there are a lot of things that are on the books in Texas, you know, that they don't enforce or prosecute...

BECK:  This is something...

ABRAMS:  If you start...

BECK:  ... we've been enforcing all along.

ABRAMS:  ... if we start citing every one of these arcane laws in Texas, you know that they're not going to be enforcing them. 

BECK:  I agree that not every law is enforced.  This law has been enforced all along, despite what I've been hearing on the news, this is not something that's new.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  It is new. 


ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait...


ABRAMS:  No.  Let's be fair. 

BECK:  It's not.

ABRAMS:  Tell me if I'm wrong.  Let me ask the question, tell me if I'm wrong.  This is a new effort in the last six months which has expanded the enforcement of this law.  Sure, in the past when there have been efforts to stop people from committing other crimes, or there have been—they've searched them and they needed some crime to charge them with, yes, they've been charged, but there haven't been the amount of—not prosecutions, the amount of arrests in connection with this kind of crime.

BECK:  The amount of arrests for public intoxication have gone up...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BECK:  ... but the type of stings that we're conducting now, we have been conducting since 2001. 

ABRAMS:  Stings...

BECK:  Going into these bars...

ABRAMS:  Stings.  You're really calling them stings?

BECK:  They're sale—stopping sale to intoxicated persons stings, we're going in the bars, trying to get the bar employees to stop selling alcoholic beverages to people who are already intoxicated.  These stings have been going on since 2001, we started ramping them up and took on more law enforcement officers, to join our ranks, so that we could do more of them starting last summer, but the fact that the media all of a sudden has...


BECK:  ... heard about this and gotten a hold of it...


ABRAMS:  No, it's because you guys ramped up the effort. 

BECK:  ... doesn't mean it's new.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Because you guys ramped up the effort.  Don't blame it on the media.  I mean you guys are arresting more people than ever. 

BECK:  I'm blaming the surprise on the media.  I'm not blaming our efforts on the media.

ABRAMS:  Brian Wice, you were a judge dealing with these kinds of cases, is this something that's been going on for a long time? 

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  It has, but I think what's critical, Dan is to ask Ms. Beck, forget about the number of arrests.  Tell me the number of convictions following a court trial or a jury trial. 

ABRAMS:  I don't care.  I don't care.

WICE:  The bottom line is that they're few.  The point is this, Dan.  That in the 10 years that I sat as an associate municipal court judge, I can only remember having found one person guilty.  Why?  Because it is a danger to yourself or to others that informs the nature of this crime and the fact that you are in a public place and are intoxicated does not mean that you meet the requisites for prosecution or even arrest in this situation and unless you are falling off a bar stool, unless you are punching the guy next to you, unless you are walking along the freeway, I am here to tell you that that doesn't meet the requisites for even an arrest, let alone prosecution, Dan.

ABRAMS:  It's just too subjective, Brian.  I mean that's what bothers me about it, is you basically have the—I do view it as effectively a morality police and look, I admire the effort here to cut down on drunk driving.  I would love to see people outside of the bar watching people have their cars brought around in cases where there's valet parking or places where people are walking to the parking lot.  I'd be happy to have police officers following people and saying, hey, you turned on that car.  I've been watching that person for a while.  Boom.  Done.

BECK:  We can't sit outside the bars and stop the sales to the intoxicated people, which is what we're trying to do. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Why not? 

BECK:  We're inside the bars—because we need to be inside the bars to watch the illegal sale take place.  The point at which the bartender or wait staff sells an alcoholic beverage to someone who is already exhibiting signs of intoxication and that's what we're trying to do.  We're trying...

ABRAMS:  But see, I wish you were focusing on drunk driving.  Why are you focusing on the sale of alcohol to drunk people as opposed to drunk driving? 

BECK:  If I thought that it was possible to know every car on the road that had a drunk driver in it and if I thought that we were going to stop every one of them...

ABRAMS:  But how about just standing outside the bar?

BECK:  ... after they got in the car, I think that would be a great idea.  Standing outside the bar doesn't stop the sale of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated people.  You have to be inside the bar to do that...

ABRAMS:  You keep changing the subject.  Wait.  Wait.  I'm talking about drunk driving.  You're talking about selling alcohol to intoxicated people.

BECK:  I'm talking about TABC's operations, the SITS (ph) operations.  That's what I'm talking about.  These are the operations that are causing these arrests that you're asking me about.

ABRAMS:  I know.  I understand, and that's why I'm being critical of them because they're not focusing on drunk driving.

WICE:  You know, Dan, if they took all the money that they're making and investing in this bogus operation and use it had to put DWI video cameras in squad cars, they could be doing the public a whole lot of good.  And you made one salient point.  It is so subjective that I have seen this statute used as an all purpose deterrent for wise guys, knuckleheads and guys that talk back to cops.  Not only that, but in virtually any DWI case where I see where there's a passenger who is not intoxicated, law enforcement almost inevitably arrests that person to keep them from testifying at trial on behalf of the accused drunk drivers...

ABRAMS:  Carolyn Beck gets a lot of credit, she's been taking a public lashing over this thing over the last—she keeps a smile on her face and she's very—is very persuasive. 


ABRAMS:  Carolyn, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Brian, good to see you. 

BECK:  Thank you.

WICE:  Good to see you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Barry Bonds and his lawyer are pitching a fit over a new book about steroid use.  In the words of Ricky Ricardo, I say he's the one with some explaining to do.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—it's time for baseball great Barry Bonds to stop playing the game.  The legal game that is.  He's challenging the publication of the book “Game of Shadows”, which details Bonds' alleged use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.  Now Bonds is not challenging the truthfulness of the allegations made by the book's authors.  No, Bonds has consistently refused to address whether the rumors and evidence of his steroid use are true.  Instead, he and his attorneys are trying a little legal curve ball, trying to prevent the book's authors from making money. 

I can understand why they don't like the book.  After all, in front of a grand jury, Bonds denied knowingly taking steroids.  He suggested that maybe something he took was something other than what it seemed to be, effectively the “they might have slipped me a mickey” defense.  The authors cite other evidence that Bonds used steroids, human growth hormone, insulin, and other band substances for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.  His lawyers argue that because the authors of the book base some of their reporting on what are supposed to be secret grand jury transcripts, they shouldn't be able to make any money off the book. 

Well we just learned that their initial efforts struck out in court.  So he apparently knows he's got no case, challenging the substance of the book or I'm sure he would have filed it, and he apparently knows he has no case asking the books be pulled off the shelves.  Rather he's trying to appear noble by asking that all profits from the book be forfeited by the authors and given to a children's charity.

So let me get this straight.  He makes many, many millions in part due to his use of illegal steroids, at least according to the book, and he wants to prevent these authors from making any money, not for lying about him, not for defaming him, not for stealing anything, but for exposing what they say are his lies.  No question in my mind he will ultimately lose this case and might even have to pay the other side's attorney fees.  So rather than searching for legal technicalities, Bonds might want to just come clean.  Did he use the illegal steroids or not?  If he did, maybe he could compensate all his fans by donating one year's salary to that same children's charity that he cares so much about. 

Coming up, are the vice president's requirements for amenities in his hotel room really outrageous?  Some of you say no and you have your own set of requests.  Your e-mails coming up.


ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  A lot of you writing in about Debra Lafave, the former teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old student, sentenced to only house arrest.  We talked to the 14-year-old victim's mother who didn't want her son to testify.

Shay Gabner writes, “Not only should this kid be forced to testify against her, but at this point he should be charged with aiding and abetting.  The only reason he's not testifying is to protect her.” 

Oh, Shay, so he's the victim and now you're saying the victim should also be deemed a criminal for being a victim?  Nice. 

From Los Angeles, Diego Hugo, “When a young man commits a crime such as murder, he's tried as an adult.  When he's part of a sexual relationship as a young man, he becomes a victim.  They're not as innocent as society would like to think.”

Lee Watkins from Columbus, Ohio, “Fess up.  You can't stand the truth.  Men who want her to go to jail are simply mad because they aren't the 14-year-old boy and the women who want her in jail are jealous.”   

Yesterday in my “Closing Argument” I talked about Vice President Cheney's demands when he goes on the road from the type of bed to the brand of soda to presetting the TV in his hotel room to FOX News.

Delen Coln from Creede, Colorado, “Many people in their 50's and 60's take lots of things into their rooms.  I take a special foam mattress, air freshener, my own sheets and a pillow, a microwave, if not provided, a fan, snacks, fresh fruit and many more things.  Cheney is very wise to want a good night's sleep.”  Thank you, Delen.

From Springfield, Illinois, Sue Bentz responds to Cheney's need to have the TV tuned to FOX.  “Did it occur to you that he might need the TV channel preset because he can't aim the remote?”  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

All right.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews up next.



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